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IDA draws up lineup for year, pushes ahead on project plans for projects / February 18, 2013
The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority welcomed a new board member, Mattie Cowan, at the group’s monthly meeting on Friday.

The IDA also set its committee lineup for the year, reviewed pending grant applications, and heard from a business owner with a successful bottled water operation in Halifax County.

Among the highlights:

Cowan was seated on the board, where she will succeed Marcus Hargrave, who was not eligible for re-appointment after serving two terms on the IDA. The IDA also announced the re-appointment of Ted Bennett to another term. Members also were introduced to the new Riverstone Technology Building receptionist, Ebony Tucker.

Board members approved a resolution to seek a 2013 Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant for $999,167.29 for the Riverstone Energy Center. If obtained, the grant will be used to foster an incubator approach towards attracting new energy-related businesses. The grant requires no matching funds.

The IDA also discussed proposals to continue renovations at the Green View Advanced Manufacturing Center, formerly the Daystrom site. The renovations are expected to cost about $4.5 million, with work continuing over a five-year period.

Several sections of the building must be re-roofed, and plans also call for improving the on-site water/sewer system, landscaping, driveway entrance and parking.

A new front south entrance is also needed, board members were told, and the renovation work also will include upgrades for the office and office bathrooms.

IDA Board Chairman John Cannon made committtee assignments, naming Bennett to chair the Operations and Personnel Committee, with Wanda Jeffress and Butch Blanks as members.

Chris Lumsden will chair the Properties and Prospect Committee, with Garland Ricketts and Mattie Cowan as members. Butch Blanks will serve as treasurer and chairman of the Finance Committee with Wanda Jeffress assisting.

The IDA also is considering establishing an Advisory Committee, to be made up of three to five local industry managers.

Board members heard at length from Robert Smith, owner of Grand Springs Water Bottling Company, located in the Alton community. Smith said the bottled water industry in Halifax County directly employs 30 people — 17 at Grand Springs, his company — and supports 57 additional supplier and ancilliary jobs. He said those 87 jobs have an annual economic impact of $22.7 million for the county.

Smith, who traced his personal history back to his high school days — he was the first member of his family to graduate from high school — described for IDA members how he became involved in the coffee business, which led to his operation of Central Carolina Bottling Company.

Now, Smith said, he has little time to actually spend with his water bottling operation, since he devotes more time on legislative issues.

“I spend a lot of my time in Washington, D.C., going there at least once a month, working both sides of the aisle,” he said.

A big issue confronting the bottled water industry is the rising number of states and municipalities that are curbing the use of plastic bottles. He said the issue points out the need to educate the public about recycling and ways to encourage that.

“It’s a state-to-state question,” he said of the bottling bans, suggesting that refunds on plastic bottles would be a good way to encourage greater recycling.

Smith also talked about the potential risks to his business from a uranium mine operating upstream in nearby Pittsylvania County. If the water were to be contaminated from a leak or runoff, it would ruin his business, Smith said, and there would be no way to compensate him or his employees for the damage.

Even the stigma of having a nearby uranium mine would be very detrimental to his business, he said.

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